Saturday, May 29, 2010

Ignorant faith - sports fanaticism

I have written about faith before in this blog but I feel I should readdress this issue.

I do believe faith is important in society. There are things you need to believe in despite there being no evidence or logic to the argument. We, as a collective species, cannot always rationalize everything into a simple statement. Yet you cannot always have 100% blind faith. Most of the time you need a heavy big dose of reality or logic. In my opinion there are three situations were faith can be misguided: faith in God (religion), faith in your country (patriotism) and faith in your sports team (sports fanaticism).


For those who know me well, I’m an Arsenal supporter first, an England football fan second and a football fan third. I will watch top quality football anywhere and take a general interest in “The Beautiful Game”. Yet if it does not involve the Gunners or the Three Lions, I am not that emotionally detached to the match or the news story.

Yet my fanaticism is pale and weak compared to the full-blooded devotion of some football supporters. I’m generally well grounded in my support for Arsenal football club. I know we haven’t won a trophy in five years. This give some supporters fuel to their claims Arsene Wenger, the Arsenal manager, should leave the club. They believe Wenger’s policy of not spending on big money experienced players and not focusing on the team’s defensive capabilities is holding the club back.

Yet I generally believe Arsene Wenger is performing a good job. He is our most successful manager in terms of longevity and trophy-wise. He’s been in the job for more than thirteen years, longer than any other Arsenal manager and the second longest streak in the Premier League, behind Sir Alex Ferguson. He has won three Premier League titles and four FA Cups plus taken the team to the UEFA Cup final and UEFA Champions’ League final. He has broken many records, including going through a whole league campaign unbeaten. He’s always constantly linked to other managerial jobs of other teams, including Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and the French national team.

He has built a good base of young players displaying magnificent footballing skill and prowess. Apart from Barcelona, we generally the best team to watch play football. We have the likes of Fabregas, Van Persie, Song and Vermalaen, who are leaders for the team and for their country. We recently won the Premier League U18 championship and have produced young players for other teams, including Kolo Toure and David Bentley.

The club is on a good financial foundation compared to other Premier League clubs, despite having a £300 million debt having built The Emirates Stadium. We are not totally in debt to foreign owners such as Liverpool and Manchester United. We don’t really on a sugar daddy like Chelsea and Manchester City.

Yet this blog entry is about the ignorance in faith by sport fanatics. I know we haven’t won anything in the past five years but every team goes through a purple patch. Liverpool haven’t won a title in twenty years. Tottenham haven’t won a title in fifty years. I hate comparing Arsenal to other teams but this is the only way to bring perspective to yourself and other fans.

Arsenal’s defensive frailties are clearly visible - our goalkeepers look flaky, we need stronger centre-backs and a back-up to Alex Song is required. Yet I know Arsene Wenger is aware of these problems since he’s the manager. He didn’t win all those trophies and spot all those talented players simply by pot-luck. He has a vast wealth of experience, knowledge and football intelligence at his fingertips and he will be thinking of how to rectify these problems. Fans, on the other hand, think they have a divine right to manage their own team just because they have seen the team play every week for the past two years, have an emotional attachment to the team like a mother to her baby and have read every single piece of gossip regarding their team. This is what separates the professional from the fan. The professional do have a personal attachment to their profession but it comes with knowledge and perspective – unlike fans who clearly lose all logical thought whenever the focus of their blind attention comes into view.

Those Arsenal fans who bay for Arsene’s blood have clearly lost perspective. They tend to forget the dour years the team had in the mid-nineties when we weren’t winning anything PLUS playing very defensive football. It wasn’t pretty to watch.

Also if we get rid of Arsene Wenger, who would take charge? Clearly none of the backroom staff don’t have the experience or clout to become a manager, including the likes of Pat Rice, Liam Brady or Steve Bould. Anybody else who is consider decent is either tied up to another job, for example Pep Guardiola. Currently nobody is available to take over, so we might as well have to make do with Arsene Wenger.

Plus it is just football. I know Bill Shankly uttered the immortal phrase, “Football is not about life and death – it’s more important than that” but really it is not. It is not as important as your health, your family and friends or your job. If football disappeared from your life, I think you could cope or find another substitute for the vacancy. That could not be said about your health, your family and friends or your job.

Clearly Arsenal fans need to keep things in perspective. After all there is always next season…

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